Air force responds with cause of deaths for 17 people at the same air base

Twenty-one Reserve aerial porters, sometimes referred to as “port dawgs”, from the 72nd Aerial Port Squadron, conduct dignified transfer training aboard a C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 730th Air Mobility Training Squadron at Altus AFB, Oklahoma, Aug. 8, 2021, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lauren Kelly)

Seventeen USAF personnel have died at Oklahoma’s Tinker Air Force Base this year, and the United States Air Force is being very vague about what caused their respective deaths

Despite the concerns the mystery deaths have caused for personnel assigned to the base, officials claim that they are unrelated and are withholding information for the sake of the respective families involved.

To make matters more subject to suspicion, different officials related to Tinker Air Force Base have been giving conflicting reports, as well as information from protected sources familiar with the casualties.

Tinker AFB spokeswoman Kimberly Woodruff stated on Wednesday that “various causes and several deaths remain under investigation.”

Woodruff refused to elaborate any further, citing that it goes against the United States Air Force policy.

“I’m sorry, but we are not going to release the number of deaths at Tinker,” Woodruff said. “We have ongoing investigations, and to protect the families and the units, we won’t comment on those numbers. It is Air Force policy that we do not disclose information about deaths or their circumstances.

The installation Commander has offered few insights to address the concerns raised by both the public and personnel.

“We are deeply saddened by the losses we have experienced at Tinker Air Force Base,” Col. Abby Ruscetta, the Tinker AFB 72nd Air Base Wing Commander, said in an emailed statement to military.com. “Our focus moving forward is to let everyone know we value them, and we stand together as a team.”

However, in a statement to the Daily Mail, Ruscetta gave some details— but it only created more questions than answers.

“Tinker Air Force Base experienced 17 deaths since January of this year,” she told the British tabloid. “Eleven of the lost uniformed and civilian Airmen died as a result of natural causes or accidents. The six remaining losses are a result of other causes, some of which remain under investigation.”

The commander went on to say that most of the deaths were civilian personnel.

Another source told the Daily Mail that the majority of deaths were currently split between COVID-19-related causes and potential suicides.

The only identified casualty is Senior Airman Tyler Jo Law, who died on May 28. Tinker AFB was listed as her duty station.

Many advocates for suicide prevention fear that the lumping of all the deaths into a vague category potentially underlies a suicide problem at the installation.

“Tinker does not have to disclose the names of the airmen/women who have died, but I believe we as citizens who have service members and who have children looking into serving our country deserve to know why and how airmen/women are dying,” military suicide prevention advocate Teri Caserta said in an email. “We need to know that the Air Force takes all deaths as seriously as they claim and, if there is toxicity within the ranks at Tinker, they all should be held accountable for these deaths whether they are suicides or not.”

The concerns come after a number of social media posts regarding a recent rash of suicides at Tinker.

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